He Speaks From The Cross
Crucifixion was a lonely, painful, gruesome, humiliating way to die. The method must have been designed in hell. It is no so much the design and result of the malfunction of a pagan cultural mind, but the purposeful mind of the devil himself. It killed ... slowly and with fixed agony. In fact, it often prolonged life simply longer that pain could be felt and endured. Victims would simply go into shock and remain barely alive, breathing by unconscious will. At this point the executioners had an effective practice. They broke the legs of the condemned and swiftly caused them to die.
During these hours of excruciating suffering, Jesus made several statements and his words were brief. Certain physical aspects of crucifixion insured that no long speeches could be made. Breathing was most difficult. The crucified companions of the Lord quickly became silent, but the Lord had some important lessons to share. Most of us agree that a person's comments at the door of eternity deserve special attention, so how much more the final words of our Lord from the cross. Tonight we mediate on his appeal to the Father to forgive our ingratitude.
We have all heard an insult, like the wind. We are like a wave on the sea. When the wind blows, and swells the water, the ship is then endangered, the heart is in jeopardy and is tossed back and forth. When we are insulted we long for revenge. But if we have been avenged and so rejoice in the person's pain upon whom we visited retribution, we also suffer shipwreck. Why is this?
Because Christ is asleep in us. It means we have forgotten Christ. So we must rouse him; so we must rouse ourselves to his presence and cause. We must call Christ to mind and let him awaken in us. Because we forget when He was crucified, He said, "Father forgive them for they do not know what they do" Luke 23: 34. The one who resides in your soul, whom you have put asleep in your heart does not want revenge. Wake then and allow his grace to permeate your thinking mind. Remember him and his example, remember him through his word, for He commands us to remember him. Then when Christ is fully awake in us if we are fully awake to ourselves and to him, we will ask, "What kind of person am I who wants revenge? Who am I to threaten other people? I might die before I am avenged ... therefore I will restrain my anger and return to a calm heart." For when commanded the sea, the waves settled, the storm subsided and peace was restored.
With his first breath our Lord exhaled words we find incredible in that setting and hard to believe when we hear them applied to us. And yet those words should not surprise us. Jesus always looked through forgiving eyes. Confronted with a lame man dropped through a ceiling by desperate but well-wishing friends, Jesus responds with forgiveness, the deepest and most enduring healing. Approaches by a fellow companion on the cross whose heart is finally overwhelmed with contrition and repentance exhorts a helpless, humble plea, "Remember me..." Jesus answers with assured forgiveness. And this is so because Jesus is the incarnate forgiveness of our God. It is our heavenly Father expressing himself with an open and transparent heart. How could He not forgive and ask the Father to forgive those who unwittingly help him accomplish forgiveness?
Of all the scenes around the diorama of the cross, the one which inspires so much response is the offer of forgiveness. As we think about it, it seems it is in response to the mockery offered a dying man on the cross. What kind of people are these? The words thrown to him that day were meant to wound. And there is nothing more painful than words meant to hurt because they pile hurt upon hurt. Of course this is nothing new for any of us. All of us have had our share of words and wounds. We have felt the sting of a well-aimed gibe. A swift response that cuts down our ego is painful. Maybe we still feel, even after long time past, the pain of an ill thought response or a properly directed missile. Someone we love or respect slams us to the floor with a slur or a slip of the tongue. And there you lie, wounded and bleeding. Perhaps the words were intended to hurt, perhaps not but that does not matter so much because the wound is deep. Its pain sears us.
Do we see what Jesus does not do? He does not retaliate. He is big enough, strong enough sure enough of himself because is the perfect man who is also our God. Did we notice what Jesus did do? He spoke on their behalf, in their defense. He realistically looks at his self-declared enemies and comes to defend their actions! His is Saviour to all without exception! Never have we seen such love. "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do."